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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Physics Diet

My last post was really a rant about online logging of things like running, exercise and food. It didn't start out that way, I had initially intended to share my thoughts on The Physics Diet, where I've now entered in all of my weight history for the last year.

It's a pretty simple concept. On the site, you sign up and enter in your weight each day. That's it. It will also accept some more data, like calories eaten/burned, body fat percentage, and resting heart rate. The Physics Diet will show you a rolling average weight, an average BMI, your Resting Metabolic Rate, and more.

I love the charts on this site. The site is simple to use, free and fast to enter data. It doesn't seem to export or import, which is a downside, but is still really interesting.

Something I see that I like also, is Calorie Deficit. Basically, there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. So, the web site calculates Calorie Deficit by (# of pounds lost x 3500) / # of days. In real life, your body might not work this way, but it is interesting to see how many calories you didn't eat over some time span.

If you enter in more data, such as calories eaten / burned, it will give you some interesting stats about your metabolism.

Here is what I have learned about myself by entering in my weight and my weight only:
  • In 2009, I officially lost 0.1 pounds (whoopee!)
  • Over the last 30 days, I've gained 1.4 pounds (Holidays...)
  • Over the last week, I've gained .2 pounds (like I said, holidays)
  • The most weight I've lost in a single week this year has been .74 pounds. Yes, I'm a slow loser these days.
  • ... and clearly I gained that back, lol.
  • And I got this handy little chart:


I know, it's small and I cut the weight off of the left hand side. But, here's what we see. The black straight line is the straightest line that can be drawn across all weights. This is a downward trend for me, but is perhaps a little more dramatic than it realistically really is because I have gained a lot over the last month.

The squiggly blue line is my rolling average weight, or the weight trend. This is the best thing to see what I am doing with my weight, because it shows where I'm all over the place this year (uh, Marathon training will do that to you). The green and red show individual weights that I entered, and whether they fell above or below the daily trend line.

Kinda cool, huh?

You can definitely see where I went to Bonaire the first week of April / last week of March, an up tick in the chart around August when I became to focused on work to do anything other than work and get my runs in, a swift downward trend in September when I decided to get my ass in gear and lose weight for the marathon, and then my trip to Hawaii over Thanksgiving and subsequent apathy.

The difference of my absolute highest weight on the chart (in January) and the absolute lowest (in November) is only a difference of about 9 or 10 pounds, so my weight this year has really been nothing to write home about, and it's still not going to be anything next year. At least that is what I assume, because I don't want to put too much emphasis in my head about it.

Still interesting, though.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Online Logging and the Havoc It Creates

There are things I want to log online. Those things are:
  1. My running. This includes entering and logging each and every run, including distance, time, routes, notes and shoes. I previously used Voomaxer, and then quit when I realized that they didn't have an export function that won't allow me to back up my data. I currently use LogYourRun, but found it to have some faults, too. I'll maybe go into this in a later post.
  2. My weight training. I want to log that I weight trained, and for how long. But, I also want to keep track of more specific things, like what weights I used, and what workout videos I did. I do this both on LogYourRun and on Cathe.com.
  3. My food. I used to do this at FitDay, but switched to CalorieKing in 2005 because even though it cost money and FitDay does not, CalorieKing had a larger food database. Now, CalorieKing is only $19 per year for me because I've been a member for so long, so I see no reason to switch that.
  4. My weight. I just want a day to day list of weights, and I want to be able to see charts and graphs of the weight, preferably customizable, and preferably with some sort of averaging so that days where I just randomly gain 4 pounds and then lose it the next don't kill me. I used to do this on FitDay, and then on CalorieKing, I'm currently doing this on LogYourRun, just because it's an easy way to put my weight and my runs in at the same time. I have also been toying with PhysicsDiet.com, which shows more complex charts and graphs than the others. Physics Diet has a pretty easy entry system, too. I've been known to make excel spreadsheets and do all sorts of other things. I'm kind of psycho that way.

The problem? Holy crap, it's too much. Let's talk about an average day. I might wake up and weigh myself. I get to work, and then I log into LogYourRun and enter in a weight. If I want to do Physics Diet, I log in there and enter the weight there, too (note: any of these tools will track weight, so I can theoretically enter my weight all over the place).

Next, breakfast. Log into CalorieKing, enter in what I ate. I usually know what I'm going to eat later, so I will often go in and enter lunch, snacks and sometimes dinner right at the same time just so everything is square. This saves me time. I can enter my weight on CalorieKing if I want to.

Lunch comes, and then snack, and if I haven't logged into CalorieKing and entered that data, I should do that now.

Later, I might do a run. Then, after, I need to go into LogYourRun and enter time, distance, etc. Since this burned calories, the time of the run needs to be entered into CalorieKing, too, just so that I can see what I burned against what I ate. Then, with dinner or whatever, I'll need to put in my food there, too.

Now, let's say I do a weight training video. Well, I need to go onto Cathe.com, which keeps a calendar system of where I am in the STS Rotation, and mark the workout done. I can keep track of runs there, too, if I so choose. Oh, and weight. As I do an STS Video, I am writing down what weight I'm using on my workout card, and how many reps I did. I can enter this data into Cathe.com as well (last time, I did not, but I am going to try it in January when I start again). Then, I also want to enter the weight training into LogYourRun, just to have it in there, since LogYourRun will note it on Twitter. Just the duration there. I'll also need to enter the duration/calories on Calorie King, so that I can eat the right amount.

It is a little nuts. I've just created all of these habits over time. I don't know how to consolidate because none of the online sites meet all of my needs. Sigh. I guess I should write one, huh?


Top Posts for 2009

Here is a list of the top posts on my blog for 2009. These are in order from most popular to least!
  1. The Presidential Fitness Test (February 2009)
  2. Biggest Loser Marathon LIE (March 2009)
  3. Our Wedding: July 2, 2009 (July 2009)
  4. The Trip to the Bank (May 2009)
  5. Recipe: Tomato Mozzarella Pie (July 2009)
  6. Cathe STS System Week 1 in Review (March 2009)
  7. 2009 Walt Disney World Half Marathon (January 2009)
  8. Recipe: Cedar Plank Brown Sugar Salmon (July 2009)
  9. Sea Things #9: Greenland Shark (August 2009)
  10. Ideas for Potluck Lunches (August 2009)
Some posts that were in the top 20 or so of my blog that were not posted in 2009. These are older posts, but obviously still hugely popular!:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sea Things #27: Whip Coral Goby

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.



These little guys are also called by their scientific name, Bryaninops yongei. They are small, only growing to a max of 3 centimeters long. They're found in the Pacific Ocean, and we saw this one in Hawaii. They live on Whip Corals - which are just these stalks that stick up out of the reef, and are each a few feet long. Just one little guy per coral piece, and if it's a bigger piece of coral, there might be a male and a female both on the same one. They're monogamous - they don't leave the coral, so I guess they just hang out together. They can change sex, so if a second Goby settles on a whip coral, it might change sex so that it will have a matched pair. How convenient!

Like other macro fishes (such as the Yellowhead Jawfish), it often blows my mind that these little creatures exist, and live their whole lives just on this whip coral. They never leave, they never know anything other than that coral.

I couldn't find any information about what they eat, and there isn't a diver sign for them. They are just interesting little creatures.

Do you like the weekly Sea Things? Want to see more? Want to have these lovely images in your home, keeping track of your important dates? If so, check out the 2010 Calendar Sale.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Recipes: Christmas 2009

For reasons beyond my control, my family had their Christmas gathering this year on December 26th rather than Christmas Day. Since Todd's family is in Florida, we didn't have anywhere to go for Christmas Day. So, we had our own special Christmas, just the two of us (and The Bug, of course), on Christmas Day. I decided to spend the day making a wonderful Christmas Dinner for us. It worked out nicely.

First, Christmas Eve, I was in Annapolis with my mom and brother. I brought crabcakes from Wegman's, which are usually much better than they were this time. Mom made tenderloin and other things, but I didn't cook for this one.

Christmas Day Menu:
The turkey was AWESOME. This is the third time I've made a turkey, and the second time making this particular recipe. I loved it, it came out perfectly. I used the Convection Roast setting on my oven, which seemed to work, although I don't know if it really took any time off of how long the turkey should really cook. I still have difficulty using a meat thermometer on a turkey, I need some more practice with that.

Stuffing wasn't so great, although Todd was pleased. I bought too little bread and it wasn't stale enough, so I felt like it was too gummy. Like I said, Todd enjoyed it. I tried it in the crockpot, but it was hard to say if the crockpot was a good choice or not because of the aforementioned issues with it. So, I'll have to make stuffing again sometime.

Mashed Potatoes, green beans and carrots were all Todd's job, and he did an excellent job with those.

The rolls came out nicely, but I don't think they had enough time to rise. I was using dough from a store mix for white bread, and that part was fine, I think it just needed to rise more. One issue? We were out the room for a bit. I'd placed the rolls in the iron skillet and put a dish cloth over them. I left them on the kitchen island. The Bug, who likes the warmth put out by the recessed lights above the island, thought this would make a nice seat for him. We came back into the room to see him SITTING ON THE ROLLS. Arg! They were still yummy though, although not quite as good as they could have been.

The apple pie... Here's the thing with apple pie. Todd loves it, and his current favorite pie came from my grandmother. Before that, it was his ex-wife, who once went into an apple pie baking war with Todd's mom. I have been putting off baking an apple pie for Todd for years now. Well, this was the day. This recipe was perfect, and just right, and I think the result was spectacular. (Check out the photo - while I often use other people's photos for my recipes, the ones on this post all came from Todd!) . The only problem that I had with the pie was that I haven't used the oven since the Monkey Bread Incident, and so as soon as I put the pie in the oven, it started to smoke. A lot. It smoked up the whole house. We aired it out, it was fine, but the pie smelled just slightly of smoke.

(Also, see the awesome Christmas dinnerware that we have! Todd surprised me with these on Christmas)

Boxing Day, we joined my family in Virginia for a Christmas Feast. I made some rolls (just plain ones), and also contributed a Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola, Pistachios, and Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette. This was super-easy, and easy to bring to the party. I kept the spinach in bags and put the nuts and gorgonzola in one container, and the pre-made pepper jelly vinaigrette in another. I mixed it all up there. I used almonds instead of pistachios, but that was just because I didn't have time to deal with pistachios, as they weren't with the other baking nuts and I was in a hurry the other night in the grocery store.

It was a delicious Christmas (a little too delicious, perhaps?).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009: Fitness Year in Review

Reviewing...


Looking back on this year, I was focused on one goal and one goal only: completing a marathon in under six hours. Will I do it? I'll find out on January 10. Along the way to achieving this goal, I've been doing a lot of running, and a lot of other things. Let's see how things went.

Goals for 2009:
Diet and Weight Loss - continue doing what I'm going. Track foods to get weight down, eat sensibly, and maintain. Do I want to lose more weight? Sure, but I'm also at a weight right now that is right for me and that I'm happy with, so this weight is fine for now.
I had gained some weight on my trip to Belize in November, 2008. This put me at about 5-7 pounds above what I'd like to be when I'm most comfortable with my weight. I spent most of 2009 trying to lose this weight, sometimes seriously, sometimes half heartedly, and I finally achieved it in September or October, only to gain it back when I went to Hawaii. Will I lose it again? Probably eventually, but at the current moment I'm just trying to keep everything in check in order to get through this marathon. Then, life will be happy again. I consider this a success, because I definitely haven't gained this year, maintained at best, and I've continued my success with eating sensibly.
Running - Complete the Disney Half Marathon in January. Plan to run a fall Half Marathon, then ramp up to the Disney Marathon (yes, the whole 26.2) in January 2010. I had thought about doing the Goofy Challenge, but I don't think I'm up for it this year.
Disney Half Marathon? Done. Fall Half Marathon? Philadelphia Distance Run... done! Ramping up to Disney Full? Done. This has been a great year of running for me. I've gotten faster, better, and I hope to put a big cherry on top at the Disney Marathon.

Workouts - Find a way to get cross-training in. Starting with post-Disney, start doing Cathe rotations combined with a very light running schedule for the off season. Get the tone back in the upper body.
I guess I failed to keep my running schedule "light" in the off season. Once I returned from the Disney Half, I kept up with it through the Frederick Half Marathon in May. I did sputter around with some Cathe rotations, finally settling in to buying the STS System in March. I did the entire 3-month STS Rotation, and felt great as a result. I wish I had kept up with it, though. This is kind of a half-success, since I did it, but didn't keep up with it.
Diving - I'd like to get another 60 dives in during 2009. We shall see, as travel has become very expensive.
I completed 62 dives in 2009, so I completed this goal. Hooray! I am currently at 195 dives total since I've been certified. I'd have liked to have made it to 200 in 2009, but it was not to be. I'm not even sure where I would have packed those extra 5 dives into my schedule.

Lessons from 2009
  • For whatever reason, losing weight has gotten really difficult for me. Is it turning 30? Is it being totally burned out after 11+ years of trying to maintain and/or lose? Whatever it is, things have gotten tough.
  • In order to run faster, you have to run faster. I had this as a lesson from 2008 as well, but it's always being driven home.
  • Running gets easier the more years you run. I've finally built enough of a base that 20+ miles isn't so bad anymore.
  • Sometimes, your feet will feel a lot better if someone just gives you a wider pair of shoes. So silly, and I should have known before now, but I have spent the last 3 years running in shoes that weren't wide enough. Blisters have improved dramatically.
  • When diving, be prepared for any conditions when you first jump in, no matter what the dive briefing says.
Successes for 2009
  • Continued running for another straight year!
  • Completed Cathe's STS 3-Month Rotation (March through June)
  • Jeff Galloway Training Program, including my second year as a group leader.
  • Two 5k Races - Shamrock 5k in March, Pikesville 5k in March. New 5k PR set in March at the Shamrock Race.
  • One 10k race - Race for Our Kids 10K in June
  • Annapolis 10 Mile Run - New 10 Miler PR at this race!
  • Three Half Marathons - Walt Disney World in January, Frederick in May, Philadelphia Distance Run in September -- New Half Marathon PR at Frederick, and then I beat that PR at the Philly Distance Run!
  • Stress and Rescue Certification for Scuba diving.
  • Master Diver Certification (Stress and Rescue plus 50 Dives, Plus Advanced Open Water)
  • Completed 62 scuba dives, for a total of 195 since becoming certified in 2006.
Goals for 2010
  • Diet and Weight Loss - Exact same as in 2009, keep maintaining, and lose some weight if possible, but don't stress about it.
  • Running - Complete the Disney Marathon in January in under 6 hours. If the weather or whatever doesn't cooperate, run the B&A Trail Marathon in March in under 6 hours. If that fails, sign up for the full marathon program and pick a fall marathon and run THAT in under 6 hours. Repeat until successful. After that, focus on half marathons again. Truly, I expect 2010 to be a relaxing year for running (once the marathon(s) is done). I plan to do my thing, and just run some great races.
  • Workouts - Start the STS System again in January, potentially on the 6-month rotation rather than the 3-month rotation. This should take me into summer and hopefully whip my butt into gear!
  • Diving - Complete Dive Control Specialist Certification and begin my work as a Dive Master and Assistant Instructor. Train some people! Complete 50 dives in 2010, bringing my total dives to 245.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!


All I want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan. It's been a lovely year, I hope everyone takes a moment today to hug your family and enjoy a beautiful holiday.

Merry Christmas!
Kim & Todd


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ornament Contest - Pick Your Favorite

My company is having an ornament decorating contest. Take a look (here or below), and in the comments vote for your favorites (choose as many as you like).


Sea Things #26: Manta Rays

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly. It is back from hiatus after taking a few weeks off during our post-Hawaii, pre-holiday chaos.


When looking for the first Sea Things to do after our trip to Hawaii, it was an easy choice. We went to Hawaii knowing we were hopefully going to see Manta Rays, and we were not disappointed. We saw 11 manta rays on our first Manta Ray night dive, and then 1 more on our return to the dive site a few days later.


In Kona, it all started with the Sheraton. When it opened, they placed lights along the waterfront to give the hotel a better look. The lights attracted plankton. The plankton attracted Manta Rays, who eat them. Divers started coming to the Sheraton, bringing lights of their own and watching the manta show. Then, the Sheraton closed and the lights went out. The mantas stopped coming.


Divers later noticed that the Kona airport was attracting Mantas. It didn't have the same amount of light as the Sheraton, but it did have enough to attract plankton. Now, divers come nightly to view the mantas each night. It's almost a guarantee to see at least one manta ray on the dive - that's never been said about any other dive. This dive is noted as one of the top dives in the world, and it is incredible. Since then, the Sheraton has reopened, so there are in fact two dive sites to see mantas each night.

After dinner, we geared up. Manta Rays were already circling - at least four were around our boat (the Kona Aggressor II). We were not allowed to wear snorkels on our masks, and we were not allowed to touch the mantas (no worries, they touched us). As soon as we splashed, the lights below the Aggressor were doused - that way the mantas wouldn't stay under the Aggressor, but would move over to the manta circle.

There is an area at Garden Eel Cove (the site in front of the airport), where urchins and rocks had been cleared, so that divers can sit and watch the mantas. Many boats come each night - 5 or 6 at least - so, there were already divers in the manta circle when we got there. I would estimate that there were maybe 100 divers there that night. Others were not on scuba, but were snorkeling on the surface. The snorkel tour operators had put out rings for the snorkelers to hold on to, so that they could watch the mantas from above. They were not permitted to dive down - the 25 feet or so of water between the snorkelers and the divers was reserved exclusively for the mantas. The divers knelt on the bottom, and we'd added extra weight to be sure we stayed put.

We all had flashlights, and we shined them upwards to the mantas. Plankton swam all around us. The eleven mantas that had shown up circled, dipped, and swam above us, knocking us with their wings, rubbing on our heads, and just generally getting very close. Over and over, I was able to stare right down the mouth of a Manta Ray, as he ate his meal. When the dive was coming to an end, we swam back to the Aggressor, with a couple of Manta Rays following behind. As we did our safety stop, two Mantas swam around us, and Todd happily shot photos. He stayed in the water for a few extra minutes, snapping photos and being terribly happy.


So, what are Manta Rays? Well, they are a type of ray, from the devil ray family. They don't have stingers, and they only eat plankton, but have wing spans of as much as 20 feet across. They're called Devil Rays because of their little thingies that stick out on either side of their mouth, that look like horns. Manta Rays have a scientific name - Manta birostris. Mantas can be many different colors, but in Hawaii are typically black on top, white on the bottom, with a pattern of black spots on their bellies that is different for each Manta. They can be identified by these spots and other markings, and the Manta Pacific Research Foundation identifies them and names them. Because of this, we know the names of all 11 Manta Rays on our dive.

Mantas are covered in a mucus coating, so after the dive, my hoodie that I was wearing was covered in a layer of slime where the Mantas had rubbed on it while trying to get close to my flashlight. A diver sign for a ray is to flap their arms, just like a ray does. There was no need to make this sign during the Manta Ray night dive.

Here is a video of the Manta Ray Night Dive (note: this is not OUR dive, this is stock footage. We do have a DVD of our dive though) It is amazing, like nothing I've ever done before, and looks like something out of a science fiction movie:



Do you like the weekly Sea Things? Want to see more? Want to have these lovely images in your home, keeping track of your important dates? If so, check out the 2010 Calendar Sale.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hawaii 2009, Part 3: The Big Island

Todd and I traveled to Hawaii in November, 2009. We first went to Oahu, then spent a week aboard the Kona Aggressor II. Since our plane didn't leave until 10:30pm on Saturday, November 28, so we rented a car and took a little drive around The Big Island. As usual, we encountered some exciting things to do.

See the first parts of the trip:
Days 1-3 (Oahu)
Days 3-9 (Kona Aggressor II)

Day 10: Kona, Waimea, Waterfalls, Hilo and Kilauea
We departed the Kona Aggressor II on Saturday morning, and took our rental car around Kona. First things first: I had some geocaches that I needed to visit, since I had some Travel Bugs that I'd been carrying around for a while and needed to drop off. With that done, we headed on our tour of the island.

Just north of Kona, lava fields from an 1800s eruption


We had to be to Hilo by 12:45, so we started pretty early around the island. We took the northern route, which was both shorter and more scenic. Although, not at first. At first, just north of Kona, it was lava fields. And, strangely, an area in the middle of a lava field filled with resorts like Hyatt and Marriott.

Me, at a "scenic" overlook north of Kona


Once we turned east, we headed into the Waimea area. Waimea is interesting, because it's inland, and not at all what you would expect out of Hawaii. It is a ranch area, filled with cows and pastures and cowboys and pickup trucks. Hawaiian cowboys are called paniolos, and the story of the Parker Ranch is pretty interesting. John Palmer Parker was this guy who was brought in by King Kahmehameha I to tame the cattle on the island. And he did. Even more interesting, to be honest, is the story of David Douglas, the guy whom the Douglas Fir is named after. If you click on no other links this year, click on his story. It's messed up!!

Pasture in Waimea, Mauna Kea Volcano in the background



Once through Waimea, we headed around to the northern coast. It was much more lush than the rest of the Big Island where we'd spent time. The road along the coast was lovely, with ocean views, and waterfalls. I mean waterfalls! Like, hey, we're going around this curve and over this bridge and there's a WATERFALL right there next to the road! Waterfalls. So, we stopped to see one. This was Akaka Falls, an absolutely beautiful 420 foot waterfall just off of Highway 19. We hiked (this being a loose term, as it was all paved paths) down to the falls, just as it started to rain. Hilo (the town on this side of the island) is one of the wettest cities in the world, and the wettest city in the US, getting an average of 128 inches of rain per year.

Us, on our walk to Akaka Falls


The beautiful Akaka Falls


After our trip to the falls, we were hungry. We headed to a scenic drive along the ocean. This was still along our way to Hilo, just more scenic. The book suggested delicious smoothies at a place called What's Shakin', and we looked for it. We stopped at a place that seemed to have smoothies, but it ended up being called The Low Store (Note: that link is not in English). They didn't have the name on the outside of the building (I suspect because they wanted people to think they were What's Shakin, or maybe because it seemed like more of a local place than a touristy place anyway). There was a lovely Hawaiian woman there running the store. We had Kalua Pig Plate Lunch, complete with Kimchi on the side. Delicious! Our smoothies were delicious too, Todd had Mango & Guava, and I had Pineapple, coconut & mango. Yum! We talked to the lady for a few minutes about Baltimore, and Hawaii, and rain. She said that the town we were in, Pepe'ekeo, meant "crybaby" because of all of the rain.

We headed on our way, and passed the real What's Shakin'. And then -- ROAD CLOSED: BRIDGE OUT. You just never know what to expect in Hawaii, so we headed back and went the rest of the way on the main road (Highway 19).

We arrived in Hilo a little early, so spent some time on Banyan Drive. There was a park built there since the area there kept getting wiped out by tsunamis. So, they figured it was probably not a good idea to build there anymore. It had some lovely japanese gardens, and lots of Banyan trees that had been planted by celebrities such as Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth and FDR.

Along Banyan Drive



And so, it was time to go to Hilo Airport for our helicopter ride. We met with the helicopter company, to take the "Feel the Heat" helicopter tour. This took us up in a Hughes 500 helicopter with the DOORS OFF above the volcano. We toured the lava fields, the caldera, and got a close up view of the liquid hot magma going right into the Pacific. We were in the front seats, me next to the pilot and Todd on the outside, hanging out the door of the copter with his camera (there was another couple in the back, too).

Boarding the helicopter


It was tiny inside


The fields of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Company. The taller trees are wind blocks, to keep the heavy winds from doing bad things to the Macadamias.


Me in the helicopter


Kilauea Caldera


The house of the Royal Gardens Community. It's owned by Jack Thompson, who has to hike two miles over lava fields to get a propane refill. He had just finished his house when the volcano started erupting and has refused to leave. It's now been over 20 years, and there is no way to get to his house except to hike over lava. Note on the link above: it states there are TWO residents of Royal Gardens, but it is out of date, Dean Schneider's house was destroyed on October 19, 2008.


The lava is currently flowing into the ocean.


Liquid hot magma hitting the ocean


Approaching Hilo airport for our return


After the helicopter ride. The yellow things around our waist are inflatable life vests, in case of a water "landing"


After our helicopter ride, it rained again, and then we headed up to Rainbow Falls to see what there was to see.

Palms in Hilo


Rainbow Falls, truly looking like paradise.



And so, it was time to head back to Kona for our flight home. We traveled back the way we came, passing waterfalls. We stopped at What's Shakin' for more smoothies (still awesome, but their lunch food was not true Hawaiian, just burgers and things, so I suggest the Low Store for Hawaiian food and What's Shakin for smoothies, although both had tremendous smoothies, so just get one from each place like we did).

Then, we were hit by a GIANT rainstorm that made it difficult to drive. But, we made it. We headed back through Waimea, and stopped at Huli Sue's for AMAZING Barbeque for dinner. Really, really delicious ribs.

Alas, it was time to head to the airport, so it was back to Kona to return the rental car and wait for our flight. We had an annoying itinerary home - from Kona at 10:30pm local time to San Francisco (landing at something like 5:15am local time). We had enough time in San Francisco to walk to the next flight and get directly on the plane - it was boarding when we got there. Then, on to Denver, where we got on another plane an hour later and headed to Baltimore, finally touching down in Baltimore at 4:30pm Eastern. It was a long day, so we slept for a long time.

It was a wonderful trip, full of so much. Not the most relaxing in the world, though. Beautiful, wonderful, and busy.

Ah, Hawaii...

Hawaii (Big Island) 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Recipes: Snow Day -- Monkey Bread and Beef Stew

With the snow today, I was looking to make something delicious, so I braved the grocery store last night and picked up ingredients for beef stew and monkey bread.

Monkey Bread

The recipe is from the Pioneer Woman, but it's really the same recipe that anyone else would have -- it's almost like the Pioneer Woman put out a recipe for Rice Krispy Treats or something... LOL

I used a regular sized bundt pan, and if you look at her photos on her site, she uses a much, much larger pan, like an angel food cake pan. That was, apparently, a mistake. The second mistake? I bought Grands biscuits. Apparently, you are only supposed to use 2 cans if you use Grands, because they're so big. So, I put it in for 35 minutes. When they had about 13 minutes left, I saw they were starting to overflow the pan. Arg! I let it happen, I figured the worst possible scenario was a fire (since butter and sugar were dripping down to the bottom of the oven). I was once present for an interesting and similar oven fire at my Grandmother's house at either Christmas or Thanksgiving (don't remember which), so I thought I'd let it go.

I ended up taking the pan out after 30 minutes so that it wouldn't overflow anymore. It smelled and looked good, although maybe somewhat underdone. No worries, I figured it was fine. I let it sit for 10 minutes and then turned it over on a plate. It glopped. It's not supposed to glop. I had a mess of uncooked, butter and sugar coated biscuit dough on a plate. Like, not cooked at all.

Ok.

I took a spoon and spooned the most uncooked sections back into the bundt pan, and put them back in the oven. I left them in... hm. I don't now how long, but I smelled smoke. It wasn't the pan itself, it was the crap that had dripped into the bottom of the oven. It wasn't on fire, but it was smoking and when I opened the oven -- the whole kitchen was filled with smoke. This alarmed my darling husband, who I think was ready to dive for the fire extinguisher. We opened a window and then the sliding door, letting in some snow in the process.

The cake was fine, but now, since it had been turned out and then turned back in, it was sticking to the pan and wouldn't come out. Finally, I just took a big spoon and spooned what I could get out on to a plate.

Mine looks just like The Pioneer Woman's, except it's just in a big pile. Like Monkey Droppings, not Monkey Bread.

Sigh. Pioneer Woman I am not. It is delicious, though.

The Pioneer Woman's Monkey Bread:


MY Monkey Bread. Close enough.


Beef Stew

I made Crockpot365's Beef Stew today as well. Not much to say about it, except it was delcious and easy. I used celery, carrots, onion and red skinned potatoes.

Celtic Solstice 5 Mile Run 2009

Well, we didn't go. Supposedly, they had it anyway. I woke up at 5am and looked outside to see what was happening. I have to admit, I was tempted, just because it sounded so interesting. But, the thought of getting on elevated 83, and the thought of trying to suffer through getting back up Route 30 and even navigating our street... It just didn't seem wise. So, we stayed home. Enjoying our day. I have beef stew in the crockpot, and now I'm going to make some monkey bread.

Todd did some "running"...




Friday, December 18, 2009

Hawaii 2009, Part 2: The Kona Aggressor II

Todd and I traveled to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands in November 2009. The first part of our trip was to go to Honolulu. After we spent a couple of days on Oahu, we took a plane to Hawaii, The Big Island, for a week aboard the Kona Aggressor II.

Days 1-3 (Oahu)

Day 3 Continued: Arrival in Kona

We arrived in Kona around 4pm on Saturday, November 21. Crew member Drew met us at the airport, and then dropped us off to wait for the Aggressor to dock at 6pm. We had about an hour to walk around Kona, and we got to see what the town was like. What a pretty little town! I had never been to Kona before, so it was nice to look around. We went to the Wyland gallery, and wandered in and out of the other shops. I found a plumeria flower to put behind my ear. (Note: I LOVE plumeria. So pretty.) We also looked in vain for a geocache that was supposed to be near a Banyan tree near the pier.

At 6pm, we headed back to the pier and watched some children and local folks fishing. The Aggressor had been moored in the harbor, and came over to pick us up. We got to meet a few folks who were going to be on the boat with us as we watched it approach. Then, there we were! On the boat!

The first thing to do was to unpack our dive gear. This is kind of one of my favorite things about a liveaboard - you get right down to business immediately. We picked a place, and pretty soon had all of our gear set up, and our travel bags stowed away. Todd got to working on his camera, but then it was dinner time. We met Gere, Sandy, Barry & Paul, two couples from California who travel together.

After dinner, we had a briefing about what the procedures were on the boat - safety, meals, schedules, etc. Then, I retreated to the room to unpack, read a little, and get in bed. Our whirlwind in Oahu had tired me out! Todd put together his camera and then came in later to rest for our first full day of diving!

Day 4: First Day of diving and Mantas

A Gold Lace Nudibranch at Kaloko Arches
We spent our first day of diving at two different dive sites: Kaloko Arches and Garden Eel Cove. Kaloko Arches was a great place to see nudibranchs, and between the two morning dives that we did there, we saw quite a few. Kona is different from other places we've dove, since it has very little soft coral (well really none at all). There are a lot of boulders, lava tubes, rocks and hard corals, but no soft corals to speak of. There were a lot of animals and fish though. I wasn't sure there would be, since I'd heard some things about Hawaii welcoming people who take fish for use in aquariums.

A Varicose Phyllidia at Kaloko Arches


After lunch, we headed over to Garden Eel Cove. What is exciting about this particular dive site is that it is in front of the airport. Why is that special? Well, the airport has a lot of lights, which illuminate the water a little. The lights attract plankton. Manta Rays eat plankton. Scuba divers come and bring more lights, attracting more plankton and more Manta Rays. This is the Manta Ray Night Dive and is known as one of the top ten dives in the world.

Me, jumping in at Garden Eel Cove

First, though, we had two afternoon dives to do. We saw a lot of interesting things, including a lot of urchins and other fish. One thing I noticed - Hawaii has a lot of urchins and eels. Instead of calling it the Big Island, I wanted to call it "Eel Island." Seriously.

A beautiful Urchin at Garden Eel Cove

So, it was dinner time and then we were ready for our Manta Ray Night Dive. We were not disappointed. Even before we splashed, there were three Mantas circling around the boat. They would flap their fins against the water, similar to what you might see if you go to the Stingray Exhibit at the National Aquarium, except that Manta Rays are much much bigger than those (6-8 foot wingspan).

A Manta Ray

We jumped in and there were already other divers and snorkelers at the site. This is the one dive site where lots of divers doesn't ruin the experience. We basically sat on the ground with our flashlights, shining them upward. The Mantas would swim above us, circle and do flips, and frequently would rub on our heads or smack or faces. We weren't permitted to have snorkels on our masks, because the Mantas would scrape them on their bellies. It was amazing. One of the most amazing dives I've ever done. Incredible. I cannot describe it. And really, I just sat still on the ground for the whole dive. Highlight of the entire trip.

Me and the Mantas

Mantas dancing

Day 5: The Conditions Change
Things changed on Monday. A swell came in, and it brought surge, current and low visibility. Because of this, we had a rather eventful first dive of the day at Never Never Land. On my documentation of that subject, I talked about my experiences and Todd's, but others on the boat had similar experiences battling the current. So much so, that the longest dive that anyone did at that dive site was about 30 minutes. Rare for liveaboard folks.

So, we left Never Never Land, and headed further south to a nice little cove, where a pod of Spinner Dolphins were playing. The surge was still bad, and would remain so for the rest of the trip, but at least we had good vis and no current.

Dolphins playing at Puhoe Canyon

After this dive, we decided to head even further south to see if we could find better conditions. The boat rocked, the seas were rough. I took one look at the water, thought about what had happened earlier at Never Never Land, and decided I wasn't getting in that water at that site. The captain got in to set the mooring line, and when he surfaced, he was swept away in the current. The crew had to send the chase boat after him to pick him up. Somewhere amidst all of this, the boat rocked so much that it snapped the mooring line, which then had to be repaired. We didn't dive there, and headed back up to Puhoe Canyon for another two dives (an afternoon dive and a night dive). We were one dive short on Monday.


Dolphin at Sunset

Days 6-8: Eat, Sleep Dive
The rest of the diving and the rest of the dive sites were not nearly as exciting as the Mantas and the Current. We had a lot of surge for the rest of the trip. We saw some of Hawaii's finest fish, we saw a White Tip Reef Shark lounging in a Lava tube. Lots of eels, lots of interesting things, lots of fun fish. Most of them will be covered at some point in future editions of Sea Things (which is not gone, just on hiatus while I get through talking about the Hawaii trip). So, that's why I'm not going to go into a ton of detail about each dive and each animal. Trust me, you'll hear about it :)

We did have one interesting dive at a site called Au Au Crater. I'm all about Au Au Crater. I'd heard about it during my research for the trip. It was supposed to be beautiful black sand, with lots of nudibranchs and small things. However, due to the surge and current, anything we'd have wanted to see that was small had burrowed away to hide. Anything that might be big (like sharks), had taken off to deeper or better water. So, really, we saw nothing but blowing black sand. I kept thinking, "yeah, this looks just like Bonaire... If Bonaire had been hit by a nuclear bomb!" At one point, we entered the crater, which was actually a big volcanic crater. How did we enter? Well, as we approached, surge came up, pushed us at a high rate of speed UP and OVER, literally throwing us into the crater. Then what? Being surge, it totally reversed, and threw us back up and over, so we were outside the crater. We did this like 3 or 4 times, until we finally figured we could stay there all day and headed off. It was fun, but scary. It shows you how powerful water can be.

The one thing we did get to do was dig our hands down into the black sand. I loved the black sand, and underneath? It was warm! I don't know why, I assume because it had absorbed the heat of the sun, but who knows. Interesting dive, anyway.

Another highlight was diving at Southernmost Point. Why is it called that? Well, because it is the Southernmost Point of the US. Many of you may have heard that Key West is the Southernmost Point of the US. Not true! Key West is the Southernmost Point of the continental US. The Southernmost point of the US is on the Big Island in Hawaii. The dive site there was called "Ladders." We did two afternoon dives there, and a night dive. Then, in the morning (I believe this was Thursday), there was a dawn dive to make up for the missed dive a couple days earlier. I missed that dive, but Todd did it, meaning he did six dives in one day. Crazy man, my husband. Anyway, Ladders was very nice, full of boulders with tons of rocks and crevices for eels and other things to hide. The Aggressor only makes it down that far south about once or twice a year, so it was a real treat to get to go there.

Moorish Idols


Kim and Todd Take a Self Portrait


Sunset on our Last Full Day of Diving

Day 9: Last Day on the Boat
Friday, we did two dives at a beautiful dive site called Aquarium. The water was clear, the surge was minimal. We found a turtle and a huge Frogfish. On the second dive, Todd and I headed straight over to the Frogfish, and then ran into other divers from our group. They were signaling "Squid." I love squid, so we headed over to investigate. There, we found a pair of mating Octopus. How cool! We stayed with them for most of the dive, I think it was about 25-30 minutes just with these two. The current had picked up, and we had a good 3 knot current going by the time we were ready to ascend. We had to hold on to the reef to not blow away. Finally, when we ascended, we were all holding on to the mooring line to keep from floating off to who knows where. Those currents, they're tricky.

Two octopi mating (Todd was set for macro, so the photo is not the best)

That day, we picked up our rental car for our last day in Hawaii, and parked it so it would be ready for Saturday. We spent some time on the boat, packing and such, and then had dinner that night at Quinn's (which I was not all that impressed with, it wasn't my choice).

Overall, diving was good. We saw a lot of things we'd never seen before. The surge and current made things more interesting, but at least we had good visibility most of the time. The Manta dive was spectacular, something I'd do again in a heartbeat. Water temps were 75-77 degrees, which is a bit chilly. Todd was wearing a 5mm wetsuit, I was wearing a 3/2mm wetsuit, which was ok for 77 degrees, but too cold when the temps dropped to 75. We had a good time aboard the boat. My total dives? 26 for the week, with Todd doing 27. It qualified both of us as "Iron Divers," doing 5 dives a day, every day.

Frogfish at Aquarium

Stay tuned for the final installment of our Hawaii trip report -- Travel to Hilo, waterfalls a volcano and a helicopter!
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